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We have traveled every day for the last five days.

Sunset in Beaufort, North CArolina

Day 1 - After delays for repairs and weather, we finally left Portsmouth on Saturday at about 7:00 am, entered the ICW (INTRACOASTAL WATERWAY ) and went about 50 miles to Coinjock, NC. (Coinjock means Mulberry). We had to go through one lock (a baby one compared to the Erie Canal) and numerous bridges that had to open. We traveled in a group of about 4 sailboats. Used the spinnaker for part of the trip and it was COLD. It was in the 30s when we left Portsmouth and not much warmer when we got to Coinjock. We are in duck hunting se They had a curtesy car that Karen and I took to the grocery store. ason and when we got to the marina there was a movable staircase of about five steps that was covered with dead ducks – recently shot. Apparently people come from all over the US to duck hunt in NC and Coinjock specifically – a real sign that we were in the south!!

Cold weather in the ICW - Sheila not quite smiling.

Coinjock marina is known for the prime rib served at the marina restaurant. We had the prime rib for dinner – and it was terrific!! The service was a perfect example southern hospitality.

Day 2 – Sunday we crossed Albemarle Sound and we thought the winds would be about 4-7 knots. WE had read that the sound can be very wicked if the wind kicks up, because it is very shallow. Unfortunately, the actual wind was 10-15 knots but because the wind was from the north, a following breeze, crossing the sound was not too bad. We motored to the Alligator River Marina. This marina was just before the Alligator River Bridge which was scheduled to close for five days for repairs at 7:00 am Monday morning. Alligator River Marina is really a gas station that is right on the water with a few docks. The docks were fine and there were about five other boats all expecting to get under the bridge the next morning before 7:00 am – a very early start to the day.

Day 3 – Monday early we set off at 6:10 to catch the 6:30 am bridge opening. As we left the marina and approached the bridge the sky got black and the temperature dropped – a cold front coming in. We entered the Alligator River as the front came in and rain started. We knew that rain was expected but didn’t expect it to last almost all day. Thank goodness for the cockpit enclosure which kept us dry and out of the wind most of the time. The bridge tender on the Alligator Bridge said that there had been gusts of 32 knots!!

The ICW is a combination of natural rivers and dug canals. The canal sections are bordered by high grasses and trees – some of which have just started to change color – which provides protection from high winds. The water is very shallow and when we are passed by a motor boat we can see the brown mud in the wake that it kicks up. Much of the shore is sandy and you can see the effects of erosion caused by the motor boat wakes. Periodically we see floating debris, mostly tree branches, and floats indicating a fish trap of some sort. On the cold afternoon trips, hot tomato soup has been our favorite lunch choice.

We followed the marks which guides us through the winding shallows and arrived at River Forest Marina (Belhaven NC) early afternoon. Josh helped us dock and got us tied up securely. River Forest had free laundry so I was determined to take advantage of the opportunity to do laundry – including sheets and towels. We had heard that there were two things to see in Belhaven, a large Ace hardware store and the restaurant Spoon River. We called the restaurant to make a reservation and asked if they knew how late the hardware store was open. I had to finish the laundry before we could leave the marina and it was getting late. The owner of the restaurant is best friends with the owner of the hardware so she said she would find out and call us back. After an hour or so still had not heard back from the Restaurant, so I called them back. The owner was very apologetic for not calling me back and informed me that the hardware closed at 6:00 pm.

So, I threw the clothes in the dryer and we took the marina golf cart into town to the hardware. What a store, an eclectic mix like we have rarely seen: clothes, traditional hardware, gift items Christmas decorations and soaps. We got what we needed, headed back to the marina, folded clothes and then headed back into town for dinner.

Sheila, Libby, Jeff, Marni and Curt.

Libby and Jeff on Liberator III; and Curt and Marni on Single Handed a Freedom 36; were also in Belhaven. Libby and Jeff were at Spoon River when we arrived. The owner gave us free beers because she felt bad about not getting back to us about the hardware closing time. The menu was a bit pricey but had numerous things that looked good. I had duck (despite my Coinjock experience) and Bob got the swordfish. When my entrée arrived is was a bit rare for my taste, and I like my meat medium rare. The owner was so upset that the new server had not asked me how I liked my food cooked that she had the server offer us a free dessert. The food was AMAZING and when I got the free dessert (Curt and Marni had now joined us for a drink and helped me eat the dessert) she then brought me a (free) bottle of wine that “paired perfectly” with the dessert. I had explained that Bob could not drink wine. Then she brought one more free dessert. I couldn’t believe it; beers, a bottle of wine, most of which I took back to the boat, and two free desserts. Marni looked at me and asked if I was someone famous that she didn’t recognize!! The owner also gave Libby and Jeff and Marni and Curt free bottles of wine. This made the cost of the dinner very reasonable! When we left, I felt like the owners were old friends. We will certainly go back if we are ever in the area and I strongly suggest anyone going anywhere near stop. The restaurant is in and of itself a destination.

Wonderful free bottle of wine.

Day 4 – Next stop was Whittaker Creek, just north of Oriental, and Whittaker Point Marina. Karen and Hugh were waiting for us there. The trip was uneventful but rough crossing the Pamlico and Neuse Rivers with winds in the mid-twenties the entire way. Whittaker Point Marina is lovely with Robert the dock master and a nearly new shower house and office complete with cozy living room area and rocking chairs on the porch. We were Hugh and Karen’s guests for dinner. She made a delicious chicken curry, which was so appreciated. Jeff and Libby were also docked at the marina.

When we drove into town, we saw Curt and Marni at the Oriental docks – unfortunately they had started out taking an outside route (through Pamlico Bay) and had to turn back and change routes due to the rough weather.

Day 5 – As we left Whittaker Creek multiple boats converged from different locations and it felt like we were part of a parade – both power and sail boats- all looking for warmer weather. We left around noon for Beaufort, North Carolina. We went through Adams Creek and I got my first look at palm trees! There were some very interesting and beautiful houses along the way: one with a helicopter and one chartreuse house with pink doors and windows.

One of the many houses along the way.

WE saw about a dozen dolphins jumping and playing alongside the boat – it took my breath away.

There is a dolphin fin in the water. They are so fast I couldn't get more - I will try again

Robert had recommended we stay at the Homer Smith Marina (HSM) which was $1.50 a foot and included two pounds of free shrimp. This was going to be our setting off point for a trip on the Atlantic and the HSM location seemed perfect. This was only a 20 mile trip easily done in an afternoon. HSM is not only a marina but also an active fishing and distribution center. The shrimp boats unload their catch and the fish are separated and then sent off to other locations. We got to watch the process which was fascinating. These workers must never be able to rid themselves of the fish smell – because the smell in the sorting area was incredible. Matt and his father Tony own and run the place and could not have been nicer. They also have a courtesy car available which we took the grocery store.

Load of Fish at Homer Smith's

Huge shrimp fresh off the boat

A car load of fish for shipping.

Separating fish on the line.

Tony and Karen - He is a true southern boy.

We agonized about our next stop – should we leave at noon and spend the night on the Atlantic arriving the next morning at Cape Fear or leave early in the am and go to Masonboro inlet and then go ICW to Cape Fear and avoid the Frying Pan Shoals off Cape Fear?? How would the weather be at night on the Atlantic?

After much going back and forth we agreed to spend one full day in Beaufort and get up at the ungodly hour of 3:15 am to catch the 4:00 am bridge opening. This meant leaving (through the Beaufort channels and ocean inlet) in the dark in order to arrive at the Masonboro inlet before dark on Friday. We did it!!!

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